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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Jan 24;109(4):1056-61. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1119009109. Epub 2011 Dec 27.

Interpolity exchange of basalt tools facilitated via elite control in Hawaiian archaic states.

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  • 1Department of Anthropology and Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.


Ethnohistoric accounts of late precontact Hawaiian archaic states emphasize the independence of chiefly controlled territories (ahupua'a) based on an agricultural, staple economy. However, elite control of unevenly distributed resources, such as high-quality volcanic rock for adze production, may have provided an alternative source of economic power. To test this hypothesis we used nondestructive energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (ED-XRF) analysis of 328 lithic artifacts from 36 archaeological features in the Kahikinui district, Maui Island, to geochemically characterize the source groups. This process was followed by a limited sampling using destructive wavelength-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (WD-XRF) analysis to more precisely characterize certain nonlocal source groups. Seventeen geochemical groups were defined, eight of which represent extra-Maui Island sources. Although the majority of stone tools were derived from Maui Island sources (71%), a significant quantity (27%) of tools derived from extraisland sources, including the large Mauna Kea quarry on Hawai'i Island as well as quarries on O'ahu, Moloka'i, and Lāna'i islands. Importantly, tools quarried from extralocal sources are found in the highest frequency in elite residential features and in ritual contexts. These results suggest a significant role for a wealth economy based on the control and distribution of nonagricultural goods and resources during the rise of the Hawaiian archaic states.

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